The 26th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) at which several thousand astronomers from around the world come together to debate about the state of the universe will be held in Prague. According to Pavel Suchan from the Academy of Science's Astronomy Institute, the assembly is scheduled for 2006. The last time Prague, a city with a rich astronomical history going back to the mid-14th century, hosted the general assembly was in 1967. It has attracted many of the world's greatest astronomers and physicists including Albert Einstein (from 1911-1912), Johannes Kepler (from 1600 - 1612), Christian Doppler (1835 - 1847), and Tycho Brahe who is buried in the city's Tyn church.
The Czech Republic's European Commissioner Pavel Telicka has arrived in Prague, where he hopes to meet with acting leader of the Social Democrats and prime minister-designate Stanislav Gross. On Friday, the ruling coalition parties agreed to replace Mr Telicka by the outgoing Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla. This means that Mr Telicka could loose his post in Brussels as early as in one month. Mr Telicka first heard about his replacement from a friend just before the news was made official at a press conference on Friday.
Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka on Friday awarded overseas service medals to 97 military police officers who had been deployed in Iraq as well soldiers returning from the territory of the former Yugoslavia, who had served with the U.N. peacekeeping force SFOR. Five of those who served were also awarded the Cross of Merit. The military police contingent was deployed in southern Iraq from April to June this year. They trained over 2,000 Iraqi police officers and police instructors. The Czech military contingent served mainly in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Czech's EU Commissioner, Pavel Telicka, first learned that he may be replaced in Brussels by outgoing Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla from a friend. Mr Telicka told the CTK news agency that he only received official news of that possibility on Friday, after a public news conference. The post of EU commissioner was first offered to Mr Spidla by the acting head of the Social Democrats and Prime Minister-designate, Stanislav Gross, who is now putting together a new cabinet. The Christian Democrat party, which will be part of the new government coalition, has pushed for Mr Telicka's replacement due to his past membership in the Communist party.
Czech mezzo soprano Magdalena Kozena, one of Europe's most sought-after classical vocalists, has left her husband, French baritone Vincent Le Texier, and will move from Paris to Berlin to live with her lover, Sir Simon Rattle. After numerous reports about their relationship appeared in the tabloid press, a spokesman for the couple confirmed for the German paper Bild that the two artists were together and said the pair's spouses were aware of the situation, but would not comment further. Sir Simon, currently the artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic, is considered to be Britain's foremost conductor.
The outgoing Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has been offered the post of European Commissioner, according to reports published in the Czech press on Thursday. According to the dailies Mlada fronta Dnes and Lidove noviny, Mr Spidla could replace current commissioner Pavel Telicka, whom the Christian Democrats, one of three government coalition parties, want to remove. The dailies say the post was offered to Mr Spidla by the acting head of the Social Democrats, Stanislav Gross, who is now responsible for putting together a new cabinet. The outgoing Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has refused to comment on the matter, saying the priority now is to form a new government.
Another suspected case of BSE, or mad cow disease, has been reported in Podhorni Ujezd, near Jicin, East Bohemia. The animal suspected of suffering from the condition is a five-year-old cow. The State Veterinary Authority said further tests would be carried out. If confirmed, it would be the Czech Republic's thirteenth case of the disease since 2001. Some 143 head of cattle, either offspring of the cow or animals born in the same year will have to be killed as a preventative measure.
The outgoing government of Vladimir Spidla on Wednesday approved an outline of next year's state budget, including the revenues and expenditures of individual ministries, but failed to agree on the size of the public finances deficit. Work on finalizing the 2005 state budget proposal has thus been left to the new Cabinet. The approval of basic parameters should enable individual ministers to draft budget proposals for their respective ministries, which will also be handed over to their successors in Cabinet. The fact that the emerging cabinet is a continuation of the three-party governing coalition should enable a fairly smooth transition.
The Czech Republic has managed to achieve public hygiene standards equal to those of the European Union in just two years, according to the country's chief public health officer Michal Vit. In two years, we have done what the Netherlands did in seven, Mr. Vit told journalists in Prague on Wednesday. The process involved the approval of new legislation and new regulations introduced at shops, eateries and catering services across the country. It also entailed better consumer protection and the introduction of a central information system for nutrition hygiene, drinking water safety and infectious diseases, among other things.